Mixed Media Sculpture: How to Sculpt & Paint Coral Reef Fishes | Cold Porcelain, Paper & Acrylics | Stephanie Kilgast | Skillshare

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Mixed Media Sculpture: How to Sculpt & Paint Coral Reef Fishes | Cold Porcelain, Paper & Acrylics

teacher avatar Stephanie Kilgast, Contemporary artist.

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Reference Sketches


    • 4.

      Basic Drawing Silhouette


    • 5.

      Fish Sculpting


    • 6.

      Painting The Fishes


    • 7.

      Final Words


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About This Class

Mixed Media Sculpture: How to Sculpt & Paint Coral Reef Fishes | Cold Porcelain, Paper & Acrylics


In this class I will show you how to create miniature coral reef fish sculptures.
This class requires several skills, notably drawing, sculpting and painting.
I will provide simple step by step explanations and a PDF for you to use if drawing is too complicated.
The class is thus perfectly fit for beginners, but will also be an interesting challenge for more advanced artists.


instagram | website





Reference Sketches

Basic Drawing & Silhouette

Fish Sculpting

Painting the Fishes


Integration in A Bigger Artwork

Final Words



"Fleeting Light", "Dancing in the Dying Light" by Amarante https://amarantemusic.com

"Where the Waves Take Us", "Flourish", "Green Tea" by Purrple Cat https://purrplecat.com/ 
Music promoted by https://www.chosic.com/free-music/all/
Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Stephanie Kilgast

Contemporary artist.


Inspired by natural forms, Stéphanie Kilgast’s artwork is an ode to nature and its current biodiversity. Plants, mushrooms, insects and other animals encounter in a vibrant swirl of colors under her brush or sculpting tools.

Since 2017, in her series “Discarded Objects”, she grows colorful organic sculptures on human-made objects, celebrating the beauty of nature in a dialogue with humanity, questioning the lost balance between human activities and nature.
Her work has a cheerful post apocalyptic feel to it, a reassuring reminder that nature has the capacity to grow back, if we only let it.

She built her reputation and her sculpting skills around hyperrealistic miniature food sculptures. Her wo... See full profile

Level: All Levels

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1. Introduction: Hello and welcome to my Skillshare class. I am Stephanie and have been a professional artist for over a decade. In today's class, I'm going to show you how to sculpt miniature angel and butterfly fishes that are abundant in coral reefs. I'm going to guide you step-by-step, starting with drawing the silhouettes, sculpting the bodies, and then painting them for a final result. For those of you who do not like to draw, I will also add a PDF outlining all the fissures you can easily print out and transfer onto paper. This is a mixed media class and we're going to use primarily water color cotton paper called porcelain and acrylics. Wireless class is absolutely fit for beginners. It's going to be fun enough for more advanced sculptors, as well. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed making this class and these fissures tremendously. And I really hope that you are going to enjoy this class as well. 2. Materials: For this class, we will be needing hot pressed watercolor paper in hundred percent cotton. An exacto knife, acid free white glue. This is a no-name brand. Make sure to use an acid free. While you're called porcelain, I will be using in today's class. Acrylic paint. Here is a split primary palette with black and white. That's really all you need for every imaginable color. Dedicated acrylic brushes, synthetics on best. 3. Reference Sketches: Sketching out fissures or whatever you're working on before it's going to be very helpful for the painting process. Now of course, you could have 1,000 pictures open on your computer. But if you make the effort of picking one specific fish and painting it out, you are more likely to do that one and you already making the first choice. The other thing that I find very helpful is to watch videos off the animal emotions. So these are angel fissures that I made from stills from a video that I found on YouTube. Because that way you better understand how the fish moves and how it looks from all sides. Another option would be to go to necrotic or a zoo. Working from a live animal is going to be very helpful. And videos are super easy because you just pause whenever you need it and then you can make a quick sketch and understand how it works. If you already have a precise idea on where you're going to do your fishers to work out a few colors and color schemes for you to decide what you're going to do and how it's going to be a lot easier. Now, you're going to see me paint a lot of different officials and different colors. Feel free to replicate some of them. But I would really encourage you to find your own colors and your own composition for the fishes, because this is what's going to make your work uniquely yours. I'm simply showing you a technique on how to make these fissures. But what you do with that technique is up to you and you can go much further in your own work with that than to just copy my work, which is going to always feel a little bit unsatisfying in the end because it's merely a copy from someone else. Copying is good and important in the studying and process. But when you feel ready to fly from your own wings, I would really encourage you to do that. 4. Basic Drawing Silhouette: Now once you've studied the fissures, I think it's always important to simplify the shapes. So I'm going to use this for you today. But in general, that's something to think about. So a fish very simplified is a sort of an oval shape like so. And then you've got fence around it. So depending on the fish, the fins are going to be quite different. If we are taking anal fissures, the nose is slightly up and down on the mouth really, it's not the nose, the mouth. And then you have one thing that goes up. Sometimes you have a bit of an added shape, then you have the back thing. Then you have the same thing but on the bottom. And they're often in symmetry. And then you usually have those two smaller frontal fence. The eye usually is a little bit over the mouth and the back. And then you also have what we are not going to do them in today's class. But you have some side veins that are about here. So you have all the mouth and the hand. And then here you've got some site fins. And this is a very simplified fish shape. Now of course, you can play around with fish shapes with different types of fins. And again, look at references, look at pictures of real fishes, angel fishes, and butterfly fishes. To draw inspiration from, I will be adding this sheet as PDF in the class. So if you want, you can also print it out. This is going to be easier. But if you want to make this class truly your own, then use references. Understand the fishes, draw simplified shapes, and then we can move on to the next step for the fissures or InDesign that to start with a paper silhouette using 100% cotton watercolor paper. The idea here is that once you have a nice silhouette, not much can go wrong in terms of shape. Later on. Paper has also the big advantage of being virtually unbreakable unless you tell it it can be easily bent without breaking. I really like using paper and my own sculptures for anything that is very thin for that particular reason, start by drawing the outlines on the fissures onto the paper. I used colored pencils for that, but you can use whatever you want. We will be painting everything with acrylics later on. So you do not have to worry too much about what you're using to draw. Once you're happy with the silhouette, use an exacto knife to cut the shape out. When dealing with sharp blades, always be mindful and concentrated about the process. Blades can be dangerous and you can hurt yourself. So please stay safe. And the second small fin and the front cut out a similar shaped fin from paper out. Glue that piece directly to the fin. Keep repeating these steps until you have enough fishes for your projects. As I mentioned before, if drawing isn't your strongest skill, feel free to download and print the PDF I added to the class. You can then transfer those shapes onto thicker paper and cut the fish silhouettes out, play around with different shapes while the silhouettes making the fence longer or shorter, bolder or simplify it. Also play around with mouth shapes. 5. Fish Sculpting: So now that we have cut out little fishes, we are going to add some clay. But first we're going to use some stainless steel wire. So this is very simple stainless steel wire that I found at an brick and mortar shop. And this y is important. So you can attach your fish and the end. So depending on what you want to do, you might want to add it on top. On the bottom. I know I want to attach my officials on the bottom, but if you want to hang them, then you might want to add it up and you could add a little loop. So it really is going to depend on where you want them. It will also suggest to use more than what you think you need. Because once the wire is attached, you cannot make it longer. However, you can always cut it shorter. If you realize it's too much. You might also want to shape it a little. So it follows the line, the thin, which I'm doing here. Now for the clay itself, I'm going to use called porcelain and parcel them is going to shrink when flying. So depending on what you want, it's going to be quite interesting. I made a test batch first. And as you can see, the fish is warped, but it's actually quite nice because it looks like it's moving. So what I'm going to do is we're going to make a few that are going to be warped and some that are not going to be warped. So you can decide and choose what you like best. Now, I'm going to use some acid free white glue. It's always the same Lu that I use. You do want to acid free. Always are set free glue. It's a little bit more expensive, but it's not that much more expensive. You usually find that type of glue and outs of life sharp. And I use this brush, always follow the glue and while I wait, I put it into water. And this is just tiny box. I don't I think there were bits inside and I use nuts. So as you can see, I just added some glue onto the paper. Now I'm going to add, I'm going to add this here as well. Now let's pretend we do not want this one to warp. So what we're going to do is to push the clay down, but do not smooth it onto the paper because it's the smoothing that is going to make the paper wop. So what am I going to do here is we're just adding the bulk of the fish. You're going to let it dry a legless. And then once it's dry, we will go back and add more. And to really make sure that the paper is not going to warp. I'm going to do the same, but on the other side of the fish. So same procedure. You might want to have some kind of towel to remove most of the water and then again, add some glue in the center and under theme about the same amount of clay. On the other side. Don't worry too much about it. This is too much. Don't worry too much about it. If it's not exact as we're going to add more clay later on anyway. So yeah, it doesn't yeah, don't don't drive yourself crazy to have the exact amount on both sides. Just make sure you know, you will have some kind of a blob. And you also want to make sure that it's thicker around the belly and a little bit thinner everywhere else. But again, don't smooth it down onto the paper so it will have space to shrink and retracts. Just make sure it's about the same size. And you can let this one dry like so. Now let's suppose you want the warping effect like this one. Let's take a similar shaped fish. Also. While you wait, she wants to leave tabs and prepare. It's always best. Put the code, pass one back into an outside container. This is called parcel and here is made in Belgium. I live in France and that's why I have it. It's not my favorite one. It's not very flexible once dry, but it is relatively cheap and it's also non-toxic and it's local to me. So that's why I have it. Feel free to use the brand that you like most or make your own call to parcel and if you'd like, I never made called parcel and myself, so I don't have a recipe for labs, but I knew that you can find recipes online quite easily. In short, it's basically some kind of starch and then some glue, some white glue acid free, of course, always oscillatory white glue. And yeah, and you cook it somehow. Again, I've never done it, so I cannot give you more advice on it. But yeah, it's just wanted to let you know because cold porcelain homemade called parcel m can be a lot cheaper. And so it's a budget friendly alternative. And you all can also make sure that you have the best glue, the best acid free white blue, that is most local to you and so on. And you can also mixing pigments. So I think it's interesting as a whole, but yeah, I've just added some glue onto the paper of the fish. Now I'm taking the code pass on ARB again. Like before, I'm going Take around the same size of clay. Only this time I'm going to smooth it down. Could have other a little bit more, but that's all right. You can always add more clay later. Then I'm just going to smooth it down so I'm going to dip my finger into some water. You don't want too much but you want a bit. And then you smooth the clay like Sue onto the paper. You can do that a little bit further back. But don't do it for the hand because you don't want the hand to be warped. Even though we are going to sculpt it later on. That's about it. And we're going to unlettered dry like Sue usually it will dry within a good day, sometimes a little less. And then the meantime, you can add the clay onto all of the other fissures. This is what I'm going to do. And you can play around between warped and not warped, or you can wait for the first two to dry first and then decide what you like best. So once it's dry, we want to complete the body with some extra clay. So what I'm going to do is just to add some glue and clay on top and smooth it's onto it. We're not going to do the eyes for now. So just and the clay and smooth at this time to do both sides at once. I'm using water, you smooth the clay onto the existing dried clay. You can see the fresh clay is whiter. And then you have to reshape the head as well after that. But first, smooth the clay. Like so we're not going to do the eyes now we will do them in a, in a third step as it's just going to be easier to deal with those that way. I'm going to read, you reshape. Probably going to remove some clay. But it's easier to add a little bit too much and remove it. You have the dark. You also want to add a little bit of clay to smooth the body onto the pins. So I still have some of the clay that I removed soft. Now, depending on your climate, those bits of clay might already be dry. So this is going to depend. Today. It's raining here, so the air is pretty moist. And that makes it a lot easier to work with that type of clay. Working in a very dry climate, then it's going to be more challenging. I don't need a lot. You can also use a tool if that's easier. I find the fingers are better, but Feel free to use to us if you like that or if working with your fingers fuels to fiddling and will end right-click in general and caught Parson. Martyrs really going to be your friend. I'm going to help you smooth down the clay as you want it. Now there are many ways of making fissures that include clay. I'm here, I'm showing you paper and colposcopy them. But technically you could use other types of clays. So this side is good. And now I'm just going to do the other sides and adding a bit of acid free white glue. This is sculpting tool. I don't remember which one, but a needle will do just fine. Or even a toothpick. I like methadone because I like to use methyl with glue because you can't easily put it in water. So basically the paper is really your guide and the sculpture. Biggest country you might want to use a metal. You have your little fish and now you just let it dry again and you repeat the process for the other fissures. Now, if for some fishes, you decided to let it walk naturally like Yeah, I did on this one, as you can see, it is warped and quite beautifully. So that's a case. You are simply going to add the body on the other side. So this is just an extra step and it's very similar to what we did previously. So just add the acid free white girl. This time you do not want to smooth the clay onto the paper. You do not want to warp the paper back. Let's try. Now for the warped fishes. Once the other side is dry, you're going to do exactly the same. Add some clay all around and smooth it and don't forget the head. Again, we're just using the acid free white glue. Going to work on both sides at once. The way I find it easier to add the clay onto the fish is to roll out a snake of clay and then add it around the fish. Adding a little bit more around the head and on the other side. So here you just need the hand. Let me push the clay around the body. And then using some water you're going to smooth down the clay. So I find it easy entry start on the edge. That way you can hold the fish in the center. Once you smooth down the clay onto the fence. Once this is done, you can form the wire that way you have a better hold. And then using some water, you smooth down the clay onto the body. Once your content. Just put it aside for drying and keep going. Adding clay on all your fishers. Once the fish body as some dry and we're going to add the eyes. We will be using the acid free white glue. And what we're going to do is to add a small dots of acid free white glue where the eyeballs are going to be going to do both sides at once. Then you roll out really small balls of cold Parson and put it on top of the glute. You want to make sure that both eyeballs are about the same size. Then you want to make sure that they are on the same level. So it's helpful to move the fissure rounds. And then I'm going to use a metallic tool to push the clay down and just move it down. I use some water onto the tool to help smoothing the clay. I always find it helpful to use my fingers. At last. She kind of round everything up and push the eyeball a little bit flatter. You just want to let it dry again. Now once the fishes are sculpted, it's time to add some clay onto the wire. I did it here and here already. So basically, if you have something event is left, then add some glue first. Because you want to make your meal. You want to make sure that the clay is going to be flush with the wire. And the paper. Start by adding a little bit of clay onto the thin and put some clay around the wire. And then what you want to do is simply to twist and push. Basically you push in a twist. So once like this, turn and you push, twist, push, twist, push. And you repeat that. The goal is to have as little clay as possible onto the wire. Mind that code porcelain dries pretty quickly. So it's going to be easier to work fast. And then you just roll it between your fingers. You're not going to see that wire all that much in the end because it's going to be what? The way to fix your fish onto your sculpture. So it doesn't have to be perfect. But we want some wire so we can easily paint it with a bit of water, just moves the clay onto your fin and then let it dry? Yeah, I would suggest to use some baking paper to put on top so the clay doesn't stick to your working surface. 6. Painting The Fishes: So the colors I'm going to use for this specific one, or very basic. So it's from my main color palette. I have a cool yellow are warm yellow, cool red, and a warm red switch spiral quinacridone, magenta. Then we have Indian yellow and very basic transparent yellow. I really would encourage you to use what you already have at home instead of buying the exact supplies that I use and the paints that I'm using here are all extra fine acrylic, which makes them rather expensive. You don't really need extra fine acrylics, especially fast Tony's, if you're more serious about working in art, paints, is something where I think there's a huge difference between high quality and low quality paints in terms of pigment load. And also the final result, especially acrylics. Now, newbies sometimes will tell you that you can use whatever acrylic brand and it's going to be fine. But if you use low quality acrylics, you're going to have a lot more plastic in your paint and it's going to show, and it's not pretty. So I want a very light pink and I already know that's too much rent, but that's all right. You really need very little paint to get the pink that I want. I want something that is fairly decent, lights, something like that. So I would suggest to get into the habit of using a palette knife to mix your paint and not your brush. It's going to kill your brushes if you always mix your color with the brush. And for this specific one here, I'm simply going to paint all over it. It's probably going to need two layers. Now so far I experienced with Rayleigh light ones, but you can also go with a dark base. Yeah, and just mixed chiral read and quinacridone magenta for beautiful raspberry red. To avoid wasting acrylic paint, I use small ceramic tiles as palette and put those into air-tight containers. You might also want to spray some water onto the paint before closing the lid. Paints can easily hold for a few days like that. Once you have your base layer on, you can start adding details and the pattern for this one, I decided to go for stripes. And lastly for the eye, we're going to add a tiny dot. But I'm also going to mark the ice likely with a mixture of red and black. Here I'm mixed ultramarine blue and quinacridone magenta, both transparent pigments to create a very vibrant, transparent purple that I will be painting over the fish to create a purple gradient on the fence. Then I created a pattern of white dots using a very small brush. You want to make sure to start in the center and follow the lines of your fishers shape. So the pattern will follow the body shape. You might also want to try and make the center dots a little bigger than those on the edges. I find creating lines of dots is the easiest way to keep the pattern regular. So for this one, I decided I wanted something more pinkish on top. I'm using the stippling technique and says I'm going to cover a lot more using a bigger brush. So I made a mixture than is mostly quinacridone, magenta and white, but a little bit of pyrrole red as well. And here I'm making a mess and adding a few dots of the spiral red and quinacridone magenta. I'm only going to add the half, the upper half of the fish body. I'm using reference pictures, but again, I'm not using the colors that I see, but rather use the pattern that I see and then add the colors that I want for my specific artwork. And now I'm going to add some deep purple, ultramarine blue and came back with a little magenta to make stripes. On this fish, I started with a pale yellow base coat. It was a mixture of white and a azo yellow. After drying, I added a azo yellow accents on the fence. Let's try again. And then finally added a purple pattern. Now the purple is the usual mixture of ultramarine blue and quinacridone magenta. This fish has gotten a mint colored base coats. I mixed fellow blue, white, and a bit of yellow to get that color. The pattern is a little more complex and appearance. I mostly use stippling here to create the crisscross pattern and started from the fence. The core idea is to create a grid with dotted lines and to keep the dots darker on the bottom of the fish. The darker dots will help accentuate the natural shadows. To add more light. I also painted white and pale yellow dots on the upper part of the fish. The next fish was painted in the bright yellow base coat. I painted a small geometric shape and a light blue around the eye. Then I added lines on the fence with the same pale blue. Finally added the strips pattern with a grayish brown, creating a very muted tone from the colors on my palette. This bright red fish was painted with a mixture of pyrrole and quinacridone magenta. I mixed a pale pink adding white to that red mixture and painted the back fence at his lands. Next, I painted the geometric pattern using the purple mixture of ultramarine blue and quinacridone magenta. Last is a variation of the stripped motif we did on the very first fish. But this time using stippling. First I painted the white stripes and then I added shadows, was brown and light with pale orange and yellow. 7. Final Words: Once you've done your fishes, you can transform them into jewelry. I can really imagine them looking rate as earrings or as an adorable necklace. I personally use them in these following sculptures. The first one is a sculpture on a plastic bottles. So I made the whole coral reef and I have other classes. If you wonder how to make these on Skillshare. And I added the fissures in the coral reef in a rainbow gradient of colors. I also had fun to add fishes into this candy machine in a more monochromatic color scheme. And lastly, I also use the fissures in this book sculpture and this book's countries really add the origin of the small fish idea. Now I do not say that you need to do exactly alike. I added quite the contrary. I think you really want to do artworks that align with your vision of the world and your sensibility. But these are just to show you what you could possibly do with them. You can also simply create a coral reef sculpture and add flourishes to it, play around with colors, color schemes to make this class and tail yours. Please also share your project with the class. I love to see what you come up with. And if you want to share your project on social media, please specify that you did it following my instructions in this class. And don't forget to tag me. I go by the moniker pretty plot on Instagram and Facebook. And Stephanie kill gas on TikTok. Thank you so much for watching. I really hope you enjoyed this class and I hope to see you in my next class. Bye.